Real Estate

Outdoor living spaces

Posted June 14, 2012 4:00 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:03 p.m. EDT

By Jane Paige
For New Homes & Ideas, Jodi Sauerbier, Publisher

With perfect summer days and warm weather here, now is the ideal time to start spending your relaxing moments outside. Creating an outdoor living space is a great way to bring all the comforts of indoor living to the outdoors. Today’s consumers have an incredible selection of products to make outdoor living one of the best aspects of owning a home. According to a survey of home builders, a patio or deck is one of the top three features most requested of new homebuyers.

Homeowners are building stone patios with outdoor kitchens complete with large, permanently-installed grills, refrigerators and work areas. They’re installing luxurious outdoor fireplaces or firepits to extend the season. They’re even installing televisions, stereos and artwork specially made to be weather-proof. Swimming pools and unique sunrooms also are being built for those extra added outdoor living experiences.

“Today, there is almost nothing that you can do inside your home that you can’t do outside,” says Donna Blaser of db designs, a Raleigh-based interior designer who focuses on outdoor living spaces. “We are creating functional outdoor spaces that the entire family can enjoy.”

Americans have always lived outdoors, but the concept of outdoor living spaces is a relatively new and rapidly growing lifestyle phenomenon. The entire leisure lifestyle industry is now a $6.2 billion one. It no longer means just a few folding chairs, a picnic table and a hibachi. It means bringing all the comforts of indoor living to the outdoors. The mainstays of an outdoor room are an appliance to cook, a dining table and chairs to sit and eat and a hearth product to extend the season.

However, there is a lot to consider before adding that stone patio, large swimming pool or sunroom. Blaser, who has been in the interior business for more than 10 years, helps guide clients through the intricate process of making the most of your outdoor spaces.

Before you add an outdoor living space, you need to determine how you want to use the space, she says. It is important to write down your goals and decide on your budget. Then take the time to sketch out your long-range plan with a designer’s help. Even if you’ll be doing the job in phases, it’s important to see the final vision.

“It is important to make a plan by sketching out your vision,” says Blaser. “Position a fire feature as the focal point of your outdoor space. Locate cooking and eating areas for optimum function and comfort.”

Another tip for the ideal outdoor living space includes dividing the space into multiple areas, giving the feel of separate rooms. Incorporate a dining or conversation set into your space to create an inviting and comfortable atmosphere also is recommended.

Blaser also recommends the homeowner determine the purpose of the space. Will the space be for relaxing, playing, dining or cooking, of a mix of these? How many people will the space need to accommodate? Make sure the patio size is large enough to accommodate desired dining and seating areas, she says.

Some other tips to remember include:

  • Walk your property. How much space do you have and what is the layout like? What would you like to keep and what would you like to change?
  • Start a wish list. Collect ideas from the Internet or magazines. Build a file of designs, products and ideas that you like. Keep the style of your house in mind to ensure that your outdoor space will accentuate your indoor spaces.
  • Go window shopping. Visit a retail showroom for outdoor products and do some browsing. Go online and look up the products you are considering. Read manufacturer information and customer reviews.
  • Consult your local nursery or a professional landscape designer for help with selecting and placing the perfect plants to complement your outdoor room design.

Look for art or architectural pieces, such as a fountain, birdbath, or statuary that capture your interest. These pieces add personality. A terra-cotta tile floor in an outdoor garden room shrugs off the splash of a fountain or the occasional soil spill from a potted plant. A durable area rug material, such as sisal, stands up to foot traffic and pets in interior settings.

While many create their own outdoor spaces with patios and decks, others take the plunge with their very own swimming pool. Pools come today in all shapes, sizes and prices, says Tara Onthank, of Rising Sun Pools and Spas. The Raleigh-based company has been creating special memories in the water since 1972.

“First homeowners must decide if they want an in ground pool or above ground one,” says Onthank. “The size of their backyard, budget and long-range plans will help influence this decision.”

Rising Sun Pools and Spas installs vinyl or fiberglass in ground swimming pools plus above ground pools and spas. Installing a pool is a big decision so Onthank recommends spending enough time researching and planning for the project.

“We are seeing more people making the decision to install a pool as a long-term investment for the future,” she says. “It can be a stay-home vacation for the entire family for generations to come.”

In addition to patios and pools, homeowners also are adding special sunrooms to their existing homes. This renovation project can be a big boost for the outdoor living space, says Chris Martin, founder and owner of Aspirations Building Company. He recommends creating a four season room that can be another family space all throughout the year. Screened porches can limit their use in the winter, but sunrooms with windows and even a fireplace can expand their functions.

“More people are building sunrooms that open up their options during the entire year,” Martin says. “We know that families are wanting to enjoy the outdoors all year-round, and we are working to give them that special space.”

Whether your dream backyard includes a swimming pool, spa, outdoor kitchen, or sunroom, you can make your dream a reality by starting with an idea and consulting the experts! Read more at

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